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Practice 06

By Amy Harder

This article is 9th in a series on learning to use video monitors for puppetry. So if you’ve just linked in here, you might want to check out the Video Monitors lesson index to get the whole picture.

Focus & More: Exit Stage Left

Here’s a game that provides more practice training the left/right reversal as well as increasing your ability to focus on the camera while moving. Characterization is also an important element in the variations listed below. Don’t forget that you have a personality on your hand while you’re working on the specific skills. FYI: The Exit Technique post is helpful for a little movement theory as you get into playing this game.

Set up. Frame your puppet in a fairly wide mid-shot. You should have at least enough white space on the sides to fit three puppets on screen. (If your space limits you to a tighter shot, that’s OK. You’ll just have to adjust your movements to fit your shot.)

Action. This game begins with one puppet center screen, focusing at the camera. Before we get into characterization, just do a simple turn to the left and walk off screen. Now come back and do the same move, this time to the right. Pretty boring, right? Just wait. There’s more.

Variation #1 - Characterization. Imagine your character has just delivered a punch line and is cracking himself up so much he has to leave the room. Get back into center screen, say a line and then bust up laughing. As you turn to exit, have the puppet take two or three steps backwards and to the right while shaking his head before he actually exits to the left.

Variation #2. We’re going to do another exit, but this time we’re going to eliminate the turn and shuffle out while facing the camera. (Imagine your puppet has just ripped the seat of his pants and is making an awkward attempt at leaving the room.) Try it… but make sure to keep good focus with the camera the entire time! Come back onto screen and try shuffling off to the right.

You need to train your hand to KNOW where that camera is at all times. Focusing while moving can be a tricky thing, so take time with this exercise.

Think you’ve got it? Try a slightly different shuffle… like your puppet is doing a nice softshoe dance while he exits. Think old time variety show, or even that little dance Fozzie often did as he left a booing audience to the band riff, da dant dat daaah dant dant daaaaahhhh… OK. So I can’t sing. Get over it.

Variation #3. Here’s a pretty difficult move to master, but we’re all about challenging puppeteers, right? I call this one the “Piggy” variation for obvious reasons. OK. Let’s go one step at a time. Puppet center screen. Turn left. Lean back slightly. Raise the puppet’s right arm so that it’s straight out zombie style in front of the puppet. Now, while keeping the puppet’s body facing left, turn just the head back to look at the camera. (Nice pose, eh?) Now keep facing the camera while giggling and exiting left. (Did you get that?) Try it a few more times until you can just snap into the pose on cue. And now… reverse it. Try it facing the right! Heh heh heh…

Wrap up. Variations always make exercises more interesting. They also can isolate new skills. Try some other exiting moves that fit your character. It’s also fun to experiment with different intensities of emotion and movement. Play around. Have fun. Then get ready to move on to the next exercise, Me…No Me.


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